Council Bluffs History

A historical timeline of the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Prepared by the Council Bluffs Public Library. Photos from library Special Collections.

1804-10-01 00:00:00

Lewis and Clark meet with the Otoe Tribe

The city was named for an 1804 meeting of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with the Otoe tribe, which took place at Council Bluff, near present-day Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, 20 miles to the north. The Council Bluffs became the generic name for the land on both sides of the Missouri River north of the mouth of the Platte River; the northwestern corner of Mills County, Iowa was then specifically called Council Bluffs.

1824-10-01 00:00:00

Fur Trade

Francois Guittar established the first white settlement at Traders Point in 1824. When the Mormons arrived in 1846 they called the community Kanesville.

1832-10-01 00:00:00

Big Lake created

The Missouri River changed channel during a flood forming a lake. This lake is known as Big Lake. It has been improved and today is a park with picnic ground, playground and some fishing.

1838-10-01 00:00:00

First School

The first church and school was set up in this blockhouse by Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet. Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet arrived in Kanesville in May of 1838.

1846-10-01 00:00:00

Large Influx of Latter-day Saints

In the Kanesville Tabernacle, built by 200 pioneers in just two and a half weeks, Brigham Young was sustained as the second prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The present log tabernacle is a replica of the original meeting hall.

1848-10-01 00:00:00

First Post Office

Brigham Young succeeded in getting the first Post Office in Kanesville. Mr. Even M. Green was the first Postmaster and was so named on February 7, 1848.

1850-10-01 00:00:00

Mynster opens shop on Broadway

Etching of Christopher O. Mynster, early resident of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Danish immigrant C.O. Mynster born in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 24, 1796. In 1850, Mystern opened a store at West Broadway and First Street in Council Bluffs which became the infamous Ocean Wave Saloon. The building was struck by lightning and burned in 1861, and is now the site of the Broadway Methodist Church. Married to Miss Maria Jensen. Bought a large number of claims of Mormon residents who were about to leave. Died of Cholera August 16, 1852.

1852-10-01 00:00:00

Kanesville renamed Council Bluffs

By 1848, the town had become known as Kanesville, named for benefactor Thomas L. Kane, who had helped negotiate in Washington DC federal permission for the Mormons to use Indian land along the Missouri for their winter encampment of 1846-47.In 1852, the town was renamed Council Bluffs. It continued as a major outfitting point on the Missouri for the Emigrant Trail and Pike's Peak Gold Rush, and entertained a lively steamboat trade.

1853-10-01 00:00:00

Grenville Dodge arrives in Council Bluffs

In 1853, Dodge took charge of a crew surveying central Iowa to find a terminus for the Rock Island Railroad on the Missouri River. Dodge chose Council Bluffs, Iowa, as that ending point, and he settled his growing young family there in 1855. In Council Bluffs, he created a banking house which later merged into the Pacific National Bank. Dodge made the acquaintance of railroad lawyer Abraham Lincoln, who was also interested in establishing a transcontinental route. They met in the White House in 1863, shortly before President Lincoln declared Omaha, across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs, as the eastern end of the new transcontinental.

1853-10-01 00:00:00

First Mayor

"CORNELIUS VOORHIS, first Mayor of Council Bluffs, Iowa, was born in Lebanon, Ohio, in 1813. Early in life he moved to Springfield, Ohio and engaged in mercantile business. While there he married Miss Minerva J. McCoy. Thence he removed to St. Louis, Missouri, and became connected with the enterprising and well known dry-goods firm of Eddy, Jameson & Co., of that city. In 1848 the spirit of advanture induced Mr. Voorhis and family to go farther west. Ascending the Missouri, they landed in what was then known as Kanesville, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, a settlement more particularly of Mormons and Indians. Mr. Voorhis was the second white man to reach this settlement to make it his home. Again he successfully engaged in trading and mercantile pursuits. He was elected the first Mayor of Council Bluffs, and served one year 1853-54. He continued in the mercantile business until 1857. In 1859-60 he was City Recorder, and in 1860-61 was Sheriff of Pottawattamie County. In this city he engaged more or less in active business pursuits until 1873 when he and family moved to Harlan, Shelby County, Iowa, remaining there until his decease on July 12, 1873, at the age of 59 years, nine months, and sixteen days. His remains were brought to this city and buried in Fairview Cemetery, this community testifying to his worth, and giving profound expressions of grief at his departure. His wife, Minerva J. Voorhis, died September 25, 1881, aged sixty-one years, nine months, and five days. His daughter, Alla Bell, died January 18, 1862, aged six years, four months and twenty-nine days. Another daughter, Fanny May, died November 19, 1863, aged five months and one day. His son, Cornelius D. Voorhis, died February 2, 1889, aged thirty-eight years, four months, and five days. He has two children living: James W. Voorhis and Mrs. Mary E. Keller, wife of V.L. Keller, Esq., of Council Bluffs. Cornelius Voorhis, the subject of this sketch, was a man of sterling integrity, fine business capacity, quiet in his demeanor, possessed of wonderful energy, sagacity and determination, and as a pioneer, merchant, counselor, friend and citizen, was always abreast of the needs of the hour."

1855-10-01 00:00:00

Bayliss Park

Bayliss Park is located on the corner of Pearl Street and Willow Avenue in Council Bluffs. It is named after Samuel Bayliss, who donated the land for the park in 1854. Samuel Bayliss was an early Kanesville businessman, entrepreneur and city council member.

1855-10-01 00:00:00

Amelia Bloomer Arrives in CB

Amelia Jenks Bloomer (May 27, 1818 – December 30, 1894) was an American women's rights and temperance advocate. Even though she did not create the women's clothing reform style known as bloomers, her name became associated with it because of her early and strong advocacy.

1857-10-01 00:00:00

Daily Nonpareil

William Wirt Maynard published the first issue of The Nonpareil on May 2, 1857. It was four pages long, eight columns wide and 23 inches deep. It was published every Saturday at 1 Palmer Block (the northwest corner of Broadway and Scott Street today) and said in no uncertain terms that The Nonpareil partakes of the Republican caste, that party being the nearest representation of our political proclivities.

1857-10-01 00:00:00

People's Store

Popular department store opens in Council Bluffs.

1859-10-01 00:00:00

Lincoln visits CB

"August 13, 1859, was a hot day in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The settlement was on the western boundary of the state, just across the Missouri River from the Nebraska village of Omaha. A politician from the neighboring state of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, went to Concert Hall to make a speech. It attracted a big crowd because of Lincoln's prominence after the previous year's Lincoln-Douglas debates and the keen interest in the following year's presidential election. Lincoln was a full-time politician and a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. The local editor called Lincoln's speech — never recorded — one that "set forth the true principles of the Republican party." "In the audience was Grenville Mellen Dodge, a twenty-eight-year-old railroad engineer. The next day he joined a group of citizens who had gathered on the big porch of the Pacific House, a hotel, to hear Lincoln answer questions. When Lincoln had finished and the crowd dispersed, W.H.M. Pusey, with whom the speaker was staying, recognized young Dodge. He pointed out Dodge to Lincoln and said that the young engineer knew more about railroads than any "two men in the country." Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869 By STEPHEN E. AMBROSE

1866-10-01 00:00:00

Broadway Methodist

Broadway Methodist Church, at First Street and Broadway, stands on the site of the Ocean Wave Saloon which was destroyed by lightning in 1861. The church has stood on this location since 1866. The first minister, William Simpson, conducted services first in a log cabin, 20 x 24, which he shared with the Rev. G. G. Rice, the first pastor of the Congregational Church.

1868-10-01 00:00:00

Court House

A two-story court house, constructed of stone and brick was finally built between 1866 and 1868 at Council Bluffs, at a cost of about $50,000.00. An election was held March 10, 1885 to decide on a bond issue for the purpose of building a new $150,000 court house and a $30,000 jail. The bond issue passed with a vote of 5,232 for and 2,933 against. The county accepted the white limestone building on February 15, 1888. In the fall of this same year, the electric street railway between Council Bluffs and Omaha was completed.

1869-10-01 00:00:00

Completion of Transcontinental Railroad

The First Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the "Pacific Railroad" and later as the "Overland Route") was a 1,907-mile (3,069 km) contiguous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 across the western United States to connect the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River.

1870-10-01 00:00:00

Iowa School for the Deaf

In 1870, the school moved to Council Bluffs. The location was selected because it was readily accessible by railroads and the 80-acre tract of land was purchased for a bargain price of $1,200. The school was a self-sustaining entity with its own farm, power plant and hospital. Students learned traditional subjects but also were provided a variety of trades classes, including baking, shoe repair, furniture making and domestic work.

1872-10-01 00:00:00

Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge

When the Union Pacific began heading west from Omaha in 1862 there were no railroads connecting to it from the east. Initial plans called for trains to connect to it by ferry. After the Chicago and North Western Railway reached Council Bluffs in 1867, the Union Pacific for a while tried to run freight trains across the frozen river during the winter.

1873-10-01 00:00:00

Lee de Forest born

Lee de Forest (August 26, 1873 – June 30, 1961) was an American inventor with over 180 patents to his credit. He named himself the "Father of Radio," with this famous quote, "I discovered an Invisible Empire of the Air, intangible, yet solid as granite."

1879-10-01 00:00:00

First Telephone Company

Four years after the telephone was developed by Alexander Bell, the first Telephone Company was formed and was put into operation in May.

1880-10-01 00:00:00

John Beno & Co.

Popular Department store opens in Council Bluffs.

1881-10-01 00:00:00

Missouri flood

Omaha and Council Bluffs received word from upriver that Yankton had seen a thirty-five foot rise and warning downstream basin residents that flooding was imminent. The city of Omaha built temporary dams around businesses in the downtown area but they did not hold and the river swelled to five miles wide, covering all of the lowlands in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area.

1881-10-01 00:00:00

Lake Manawa Created

After the flood in the area south of Council Bluffs, the Missouri River had looped itself in a hairpin bend, leaving an old channel filled with quiet water. The body of water left stranded by the river's change, covering about 400 acres (160 ha), later became Lake Manawa, a popular recreation area in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area.

1883-10-01 00:00:00

Christian Home founded

On the evening of November 3, 1882, Reverend Joseph Goff Lemen addressed a large congregation at the First Baptist Church in Council Bluffs. He related his experiences with the countless poverty-stricken families in the city. In his sermon, Reverend Lemen gave several examples of the poverty and challenged his listeners to visit these unfortunate people. The Pastor then appealed to the group for goods and financial assistance to help the poor and friendless.

1883-10-01 00:00:00

Fire Department formed

First Fire Department formed on January 5th.

1884-10-01 00:00:00

Harry Langdon born

Harry Philmore Langdon (June 15, 1884 – December 22, 1944) was an American comedian who appeared in vaudeville, silent films (where he had his greatest fame), and talkies.

1885-10-01 00:00:00

Squirrel Cage Jail built

The Pottawattamie County Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa, United States was built in 1885 and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The building is a Squirrel Cage Jail, also known as a Rotary Jail.

1886-10-01 00:00:00


Council Bluffs became the second city in the United States to have electric trolleys.

1887-10-01 00:00:00

St. Bernard's Hospital

The Sisters of Mercy founded St. Bernard’s Hospital in 1887. The first Mercy Hospital was then built to serve as an acute care facility in 1902. The two facilities merged in 1965.

1888-10-01 00:00:00

Mercy Hospital created

1895-10-01 00:00:00

John G. Woodward Candy Company

The little pair – Jean stood 45 inches tall, his wife Inez 42 inches – were known throughout the city for their size, the size of their house at 517 Fourth St., and their work as the advertising face of Council Bluffs-based John G. Woodward & Co., a candy manufacturing giant in the early 20th century.

1901-10-01 00:00:00

Cutler Funeral Home opens

1905-10-01 00:00:00

Library opens in Carnegie Building

In 1903 the Pusey property on Willow Avenue and the Pinney property on Pearl Street were purchased as the Library site for $14,201. Patton & Miller of Chicago, builders of most of the Carnegie libraries, was selected as general architect and J.C. and W. Woodward of Council Bluffs were selected as local architects. The design of the building was to have three floors and two entrances, one on Pearl Street and the main entrance on Willow Avenue facing Bayliss Park. The total cost including grounds, grading and clearing of the grounds, building and furniture was $88,160.55. The address of the Library was 200 Pearl Street. In 1904 ground breaking and cornerstone laying ceremonies were held. On September 12, 1905, the Library was dedicated.

1907-10-01 00:00:00

Jennie Edmundson Hospital created

James and Jennie Edmundson were early residents of Council Bluffs, Iowa. They are associated with Jennie Edmundson Hospital, located at 933 East Pierce Street.

1907-10-01 00:00:00


A City Auditorium was built in 30 days to house horticulture show.

1916-10-01 00:00:00

Chamber of Commerce organized

1919-10-01 00:00:00

Victory Parade

Victory parade welcoming home Company L, 168th Infantry, May 20, 1919. The first Iowa National Guard unit to be sent to France was the 168th Infantry. The 168th Infantry was a consolidated force made up of three prewar regiments of Iowa National Guard infantry. It was assigned to the 42nd "Rainbow" Division, one of the first American divisions to reach Europe.

1920-10-01 00:00:00

Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial dedicated

Locally known as "The Black Angel," this statue honors Ruth Anne Dodge, the wife of General Dodge. Sculpted by Daniel Chester French, creator of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Black Angel commemorates Ruth Anne Dodge's 1916 death.

1921-10-01 00:00:00

TJ High School

When Thomas Jefferson High School was built in 1921 at 25th Street and West Broadway, it served grades seven through 10, but the district had grown so fast that the district felt two high schools were necessary. T.J. became a high school, and the old Council Bluffs High School was renamed Abraham Lincoln High School.

1923-10-01 00:00:00


Tornado killed several in C.B.

1925-10-01 00:00:00

Grand Hotel Fire

1925-10-01 00:00:00

KOIL signs off the air

A Midwest broadcasting legend, Omaha's heritage Top 40 station "The Mighty 1290" and "The Rock of the Midwest" signed on the air July 10, 1925.

1926-10-01 00:00:00

Girl Scouts

Official beginning of Girl Scouting in Pottawattamie County.

1926-10-01 00:00:00

Manawa Fire

Fire gutted Lake Manawa Pavilion.

1927-10-01 00:00:00

Chieftain Hotel

As was the fashion at the time, when Eugene Eppley built the Hotel Chieftain in Council Bluffs in 1927, he commissioned an artist to paint murals of local scenes on the walls in private dining and meeting rooms. Grant Wood, who created the murals for Eppley, was not a household name at the time but is now an internationally known artist and painter of the iconic American Gothic. Eppley’s commission with Wood called for murals Chieftanin both the Hotel Chieftain’s “Corn Room” and the “Pioneer Room.” The 1927 commission also called for Wood to paint murals in Eppley-owned hotels in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids. Although now converted into apartments, the Hotel Chieftain is the only Eppley hotel still standing that once housed Wood’s corn murals.

1928-10-01 00:00:00

Art Farmer Born

Arthur Stewart "Art" Farmer (August 21, 1928 – October 4, 1999) was an American jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player. He also played flumpet, a trumpet–flugelhorn combination specially designed for him. He and his identical twin brother, double bassist Addison Farmer, started playing professionally while in high school. Art gained greater attention after the release of a recording of his composition "Farmer's Market" in 1952.

1928-10-01 00:00:00

CB Aiport

With the establishment of Council Bluffs as an aviation center as their objective, seventy-five enthusiastic business and professional men met at the Chieftain Hotel in January 1928, to form an organization, elect temporary officers, and authorize immediate incorporation of the Council Bluffs Aero Club. The first objective of the club was to obtain an airport as quickly as possible.

1936-10-01 00:00:00

Construction begins on Indian Creek Channel

Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1936. Plagued for nearly a century by perennial flooding of Indian Creek, the City begins construction on a massive channelization project designed to confine the creek to its banks. Funded largely through a grant from the recently established Public Works Administration (PWA), the Indian Creek Channel, upon its completion two years later, would become the largest PWA undertaking in the State of Iowa. The construction of the Indian Creek Channel reduced both the number and severity of the city's subsequent floods, and profoundly impacted city's sanitary conditions, and both the residential and commercial development in Council Bluffs. The effects of the Indian Creek channelization, both practical and historical, are still realized today.

Council Bluffs History

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